Sunday, July 28, 2013

Must. See. Michigan.

This summer, I've been overcome with the feeling that my family needs to get out and explore a bit of our great state.  Rumor has it that my older child will be studying Michigan history this year, so I thought it best that her experience include more than just a couple of trips on Detroit's People Mover and a dip in one of the many Long Lakes.

summer, 2011
Long Lake, near Alpena, MI, July 2012

So we piled in the car and headed north.

First stop, Suttons Bay to see my almost-93-year-old grandmother.  She is Pure Michigan, having left the state only once (to my knowledge) for a grandson's wedding in St. Louis about 15 years ago.  Having been an artist in her earlier years, we thought it would be fun for her to participate in the scheduled craft activity.  She mostly watched

as did my older daughter and Music Man.

These hands have created and cared for so much and so many over the years, but that day, they were still.

After that, we headed to Glen Arbor and the Sleeping Bear Dunes.  Here we are on the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive.

Who can resist dipping your feet in Lake Michigan?

The next morning, there happened to be a 5K race, so Music Man suited up and joined in.  Luckily, he was one of the few wearing neon orange, so he was easy to spot!

The start and finish lines were at the Cherry Republic, a store devoted to all things cherry.

In the afternoon, we climbed the dunes.  The sand!  The breeze!  The views!  This is Michigan.

We also visited long lost relatives for a little farm tour and dinner at their sweet home in Northport.  Cousins!  Second cousins!  Horses!  Rabbits!  Bantam chickens!  Stop action movies!  Lasagna!  Acres of cherry trees!  This is Michigan.

Next on the itinerary was Mackinac Island, so we drove to Mackinaw City, caught the ferry to the island, and explored the downtown.  Within minutes, we were seeing fudge being made and strolling through the public library.

We decided to rent tandem bikes and spent about an hour training ourselves to maneuver them.

Our efforts paid off and we cruised around the island, viewing the water, the trees, the Grand Hotel, the Governor's House, the hills, the horses, the Arch Rock, the fort, and the little neighborhoods.  This is Michigan.

Tired and happy, we ate a fun dinner, and carried Mackinac Island Fudge ice cream cones onto the ferry towards the mainland.

photo by Josi, age 7

We spent the night in Cheboygan and explored a bit of Lake Huron's shoreline before driving back downstate.  This is Michigan.

can you see the Mackinac Bridge?

We stopped for lunch in Gaylord and I heard myself asking the restaurant's hostess, "We're looking for something to do in the area, and I heard there is ... elk viewing."  "Yes, there is totally elk viewing!" she exclaimed and gave me directions.  It turns out there is a large herd of friendly elk and a few fallow deer a mile or two outside of downtown Gaylord.  Michigan safari!

We were glad to return home after such a fun and unique view of our state!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

There is a house in our tree!

When this drawing appeared on the fridge one morning, we knew the requests to build a treehouse were getting serious.

And why not?  We're a family of nature lovers, and with such a quirky backyard already, we thought a treehouse was starting to make sense.

So we chose a tree.

And checked out books from our beloved library.  It turns out the summer reading program this year has a DIY focus, so we were right up the library's alley.

We were gifted some leftover wood and some overflow enthusiasm from another creative family, and within a day or so, the frame went from Driveway to Tree.

Soon after that, the floors and the rails.

And after hammering about three million nails, the treehouse could hold our family.

We added a rope ladder, a banner, and a basket with pulley.

 The roof? The tree itself!

Home, tree, home!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Busy as a bee!

About 3 weeks ago, a colony of honeybees arrived and they are here to stay!

After seeing all the documentaries and hearing about the plight of the honeybee, we decided that putting a hive in our yard and welcoming a colony of bees was the next step for our little yarden.  But not wanting to try this alone, we decided to enlist the help of Ypsi Melissa, a local bee mentor.

Here she is helping to ready the hive by placing empty honeycomb scraps on the top bars of the empty hive.

A month or two ago, I drove all the way out to Jackson to pick up a hefty top bar hive from Steller Apiaries, a local leader in natural beekeeping.

I especially like this hive because of the observation window on the side, which lets us see what's going on in there without disturbing the busy bees.

The bees came in this white nuc box, with the queen in a little queen cage.

Installing the frames of comb into the hive was trickier than we had thought it would be, so when we checked the hive today, we were so happy to see signs of health (pollen being brought in, lots of brood cells, egg cells, and new comb that the bees had made in the last 3 weeks).

One aspect of bringing all these animals into our yard is that many of the old fashioned sayings and idioms are coming to life.  Dirty as a dog, all cooped up, and making a beeline are just a few.  There are so many more that we are experiencing firsthand.  In fact, during the transfer of the new bees from the nuc box to their hive, I heard some intense buzzing and realized that I in fact did have a bee in my bonnet!

Today my bee mentor asked me if I had chosen a name for our queen yet.  I'm leaning toward Miriam, a sweet Jewish name that reminds me of the Isrealites' longing for the land that flows with milk and honey.  Since our little plot of land is sort of producing eggs and honey, I think the name fits.

Good work, Miriam and daughters!